Queen Victoria in the Mersey

Our timing was good but totally fortuitous, the Queen Victoria, Canard’s smaller sister (Queen Mary 2 and Elizabeth being larger) was due into Liverpool on the morning we were heading back to Wales.

Liverpool’s regeneration has seen the world’s finest ocean liners visiting the port again and evoking memories of earlier times when my mum and dad used to go down to the Pier Head on a Saturday and watch the liners come in and out and muse over the people that disembarked. She was visiting as part of Canard’s 170 year old association with the port of Liverpool.

She was due to birth at 9.00am but I couldn’t find any information on when she would be coming up the Mersey past Burbo Bank. I wasn’t sure if she’d go straight to the birth or hold up a while before coming along side and I didn’t want to miss her. It meant an early start and I arrived in heavy drizzle soon after seven.

You get a really fine view over the upper Mersey from Burbo Bank and I’m not a great fan of crowds so I had no intention of going to the landing stage in front of the Three Graces to see her, it was expected there would be hundreds of thousands descending on the city. Also at this spot there’s the added advantage of using Gormley’s Iron Men, the art work is actually officially called ‘Another Place’, within the images.

The topography of the river at this point means that any ship entering the Mersey when first in sight appears, initially, to be heading away from the port. They have to skirt the sand bank and turn sharply to the right before entering the main channel. This means that for a brief moment they appear head on, a dramatic aspect and one I was keen not to miss.

Queen Victoria’s statistics are impressive, if not quite in the same league as the Queen Mary 2; 90,000 gross tonnage; 2,000 passengers and 1,000 crew; 965 feet long and 106 feet wide with a draft of 26 feet; 10 decks and she’s the only cruise liner to boast a Royal Court Theatre with private boxes.

All very impressive but at the expense, I feel, of the classic lines exhibited by the earlier Queens, Elizabeth, Mary and even the slightly more recent and modern lines of the QE2. As Victoria tuned to face head on it had the look of a oil rig or a floating building site that would soon become a rather predictably square looking hotel. Those earlier Queens were not much smaller than Victoria but had something of the ‘ship’ about them.

The age of the great ocean liners and the steam trains has been deeply ingrained within me. Dad had a love of both, collected the trains and modelled the ships. They still have pride of place at the family home and are a constant reminder of great days. One of my favourite portraits of dad, taken a few years before he died, is of him tending to his collection of ships. Ships that still looked like ships. Im not sure he’d have been quite as enthusiastic to add to his collection the Cunard’s of today.

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